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Birds And Buildings - Bantam to Behemoth CD (album) cover

BANTAM TO BEHEMOTH

Birds And Buildings

 

Eclectic Prog

4.25 | 328 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Birds and Buildings: Bantam to Behemoth [2008]

Rating: 8/10

This debut from Dan Britton's project Birds and Buildings created quite a stir within the prog community upon its release. Britton is an American multi-instrumentalist who gained a minor reputation with his previous project Deluge Grander. However, Bantam to Behemoth is my first experience with Britton's work, so I don't have anything to compare it to. Heavy jazz-fusion describes much of the material, but an amalgamation of various diverse influences is displayed here, ranging from Genesis to King Crimson to Magma. I even hear some progressive metal influences, particularly in the song structure of the heavier tracks. Excepting the softer tracks, this album can almost be described as "'21st Century Schizoid Man' Meets Liquid Tension Experiment." The term "eclectic prog" fits Bantam to Behemoth perfectly; despite some flaws, it manages to be a compelling release full of exciting instrumentation, fiery musicianship, and inspired composition.

The opening track "Birds Flying Into Buildings" is a mind-blowing nine-minute blast of heavy fusion. Even the Mellotron in this song manages to be intense, and the keyboard and sax work is superb. It's impossible not to be fully attentive while listening to this. "Terra Fire" calms things down a bit. There's some solid guitar/sax interplay here, but this track also introduces what I consider to be the weakest aspect of this album: the vocals. Britton is a fantastic instrumentalist and composer, but he's no singer. The vocals here are flat and emotionless, and they're mixed into the background as if they don't want to be heard. "Tunguska" brings back the heavy jazz-rock, but with tuned-down intensity. The vocals are dull yet again, but a sublime keyboard solo makes this a nonissue. "Caution Congrates and Forms a Storm" takes a while to build up, with acoustic guitar and piano dominating the first half. It picks up the pace later on, with more excellent keyboard work, and even a cool bass solo. For the most part, though, this is an average track when compared to some of the better material on the album. "Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone" is the mellowest track here, and may also be the weakest. It is by no means a bad song, but I think that Britton works much better with more intense and fast-paced material. The female guest's vocals here are just as unenthusiastic as Britton's. Things greatly improve with "Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass." This is the best track on the album. A lot of it has a strong Middle-Eastern/Oriental feel, with flute and acoustic guitar en masse. The intense conclusion creates one of the best moments on the album. "Charkra Khan" continues with the super-charged jazz-rock, with an infectious groove to accompany the madness."Battalion" features some amazing jazzy piano and guitar playing. The drums are also particularly notable here. "Sunken City, Sunny Day" is a short Mellotron-laden concluding piece.

Dan Britton and company have created an excellent modern prog album with Bantam to Behemoth. As stated before, the influences are diverse and the material is eclectic, but this doesn't stop the album from achieving stylistic cohesion and a unique identity. However, there are flaws here that can't be ignored. First and foremost are the vocals. I honestly can't understand why this album wasn't kept entirely instrumental. Not only does this type of music not accommodate vocals particularly well, but the vocals themselves are flat and dull. They detract from the music despite the fact that they're practically mixed into nonexistence. The mellower and more folky tracks are another flaw. Britton simply isn't as talented when it comes to that type of music; he succeeds so much better within the context of intense Crimsonian jazz-fusion. Some composers are good at building atmosphere, but Britton is not one of them. Regardless, this manages to be an immensely enjoyable and rewarding release despite its flaws. I hope that this project has a long and bright future ahead of it.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |

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